The Artisans D’Angkor, a professional training school, was founded and supported by the French to help young Cambodians rediscover Angkor traditional handicrafts and give them the opportunity to take part in the rebuilding process their country had undertaken.
Artisans d'Angkor was established as a natural offshoot of the Chantiers-Écoles project as a school-to-work transition for the young craftsmen that had been trained. Students carve replicas of the medieval city of Angkor from drawings on paper. Candidates are selected from disadvantaged families in the surrounding regions. After a screen on their ability to become sculptors, they are then trained for six months but with only eight hours a day of practice, six days a week. After this training, they are tested and should work for another six months for the school to help fund the training of other apprentices. Finally, they return to work as artisans in their village. The skilled artisans could thus be organized into a self-sustaining handicraft network.
When the Angkor Empire with its regal builders was at its glorious zenith, thousands of craftsmen erected what is now considered one of the wonders of the world-the Angkor temple complex.
In more recent times, years of war and genocide decimated a great number of the heirs of this artistic tradition. With them disappeared a vast body of skills and expertise. The Angkor site was gradually overtaken by a stranglehold of vegetation and forest growth which invaded the sanctuaries, embracing the temple roofs and walls with their serpentine roots.